29 January 2003

Location: In a car heading to downtown Dalkeith

Yeah, g'day...

Okay, so it's been a while since I've put anything up here. Which means (you guessed it), this is going to be a whopper. But at least it means I've been keeping myself busy...

Housewarming and Sue and Tamara's

A couple of parties kicked off the festive season, with much merriment to be had. With the temperature dropping, staying indoors was definetely a priority (and continues to be, although to be fair it's not as cold as I thought it would be...).

Edinburgh welcomes... Santa!The fat man comethThat said, some events do require being outside, as was the case with the Christmas street parade, on the first of December, the first day of the Aussie summer. Float after Christmas related float trailed down Princes Street, until finally the big man arrived, magically descending upon the mighty stage full of over-enthusiastic carol singers. When I say magically, I do of course mean that he was lowered to the stage by a big F-off crane that was sitting behind the building, but I was hardly going to say that, was I?

Dinner at Roddy and Alex'sOf course, it wouldn't have been much of a festive season without a few dinner parties around town.

Plenty of cow for everyone, and more roast potatoes then you can poke a stick at. Eating food in very large quatities seems to be the norm over here, and I'm sure I'm going to have to let the belt out a couple of notches in the not too distant future. I probably don't quite fit into the "fat bastard" category just yet, but I'm definetely working on it.

December went very quickly - there seemed to be no end of Christmas related events to occupy my time, until finally the big day arrived. Needless to say, I woke up feeling a little fragile the following day, having spent Christmas with the other Edinburgh "orphans". What began as a "slight libation" turned into quite a few libations (as things tend to do). A few highlights of the day:

Me, Kate, Min and Hamish
Me, Kate, Min, and Hamish

The Christmas Table
The Christmas table

Table again, this time with bods
The table again, this time with a few bods

The Oliver sistersHo ho ho...
The Oliver sisters (Kate and Rosie) and your's truly...

The champagne went terribly wrong...
Had a small accident with the bottle of red champagne!

Unfortunetely, a hangover was the last thing I needed on boxing day, as I had to get In London with Danniup at sparrow fart to get to the airport to board a plane. I was heading down to London to visit Danni, an aquaintance from Sydney (I would use the term "friend", but I think to function in society you need to have standards, and one of these standards is a minimum intelligence level that people need to meet before you allow them to go into the "friend" bucket. Danni? Well, to be fair, she's as thick as pig shit, and has the personality of a lampshade. Hence aquaintance). She was in town to visit her folks for Christmas, so we arranged to meet up for a mutual slagging off session. I think I won. Or at least I have now. Heh heh.

I was staying at my mate Geoff's place for the visit... getting in was a bit of an ordeal in itself! Geoff and his lovely wife Jo were out of the country travelling. They had said that me staying there was no problem, but that I would have to pick up the key to the flat from the neighbours prior to the 25th. Of course, I had no way of getting down to London before then, but I had arranged for Danni to collect it. Except... the only information Geoff had about their neighbours was their names. So it was understandable that when this chick rocks up to the front door unannounced and says "Yeah, g'day... can I have the key to next door?", their response was "Um, yeah, who the hell are you?", closely followed by a "Um, bugger off?". But a couple of phone calls later it was sorted.

Danni was due to arrive at Geoff and Jo's at about 5:30, so I spent the intervening hours getting to know their TV. They have the best TV - huge screen, great sound, the works. I only wish I had thought to throw the XBox (a Christmas present to myself) into my case before I came down. As it turns out, Danni didn't end up arriving until about 10:30, due to the family dog attacking her Dad and requiring a quick trip to the emergency ward to stitch him up. Pubs in England close at 11 (mental, I know), so we made a mad dash to get a couple of bottles of wine at the off-licence, along with some pretty nasty fried chicken, and had a night in instead.

Met Danni in Picadilly Square for lunch the following day, and proceded on to Oxford street, which I had been informed by Oxford Streeta couple of friends (Jilly and Silvs) was "not bad" for shopping. My wardrobe has always had a "I got this 12 years ago, but it's still in good nick so I'm going to wear it" feel about it, so I decided to revamp it. I ended up bying a stupid amount of gear - six shirts and two pairs of pants. On the Jilly and Silvs scale, it's not much, but it was quite a lot for Claytie...

Me, Jacquie and TamaraSo it was back to Edinburgh to prepare for the Hogmanay (New Year, for those outside Scotland). The lead up to Hogmany is almost as big an event as the day itself. Every year they have a candlelit walk, which starts at the Royal Mile not far from the castle, winds down to Princes street, and heads up to Calton Hill. It was quite a sight, given the number of people who got involved. There was a huge blanket of candles as far as the eye could see.

Burly men in Viking outfitsAt the top of the hill the rituals began. I'm not entirely Burning the Viking shipsure what it was all about, but there were a lot of burly blokes dressed in Viking outfits who burned a boat and roared a lot. I think there was also a bit of gnashing of teeth in there too, but can't confirm. Spectacular, although without knowing the background also a little scary and, well, a little loony.

And then came Hogmanay.

At Dean and Kel's before the ceilidhI had arranged to go to a Ceilidh with a few mates - any excuse to don a kilt for a night. At the time I decided to upgrade my kilt. The first kilt I got was from a place called Armstrong's in the Grassmarket, an area of town known more for it's pubs than it's "quality kilt" establishments. A real kilt has somewhere in the vicinity of eight yards of material in it, which, when you think about it, is quite a bit considering it only needs to fit around your waist. My first kilt, a forty quid number, Gangster rap, Edinburgh style...weighs in at an estimated three/four yards (I was going to measure it, but I'd have to rip the bugger apart...). It's a bit like comparing a set of fitted tuxedo trousers to trakky-daks. I hadn't even originally decided to get a new one - I had a formal do approaching (still do - 22 Feb), and wanted to get a proper jacket. There are a few types, the most common being the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Argyle. The Bonnie Prince Charlie looks pretty swish, but apparently is only really suitable for evening occassions, so I went for the Argyle, which is more of a all rounder. But I was in the shop and thought I'd try on a proper kilt. The difference in weight, quality of material, the way the pleats hang, and other things that will probably bore the shit out of you, was amazing. I got on the phone and called in a Scottish lass to help me pick a tartan (Jilly, Silvs, and Kristy please note - some things never change... I still consult the experts when fashion is concerned...), and before I knew it Heather, James, Me and David - Jacquie was busy taking the photo...I was walking out the door with a "Kennedy Modern".

As it turns out, I didn't end up wearing the full gear for Hogmanay. The same Scottish lass that advised me on the tartan gave me another invaluable peice of advice... "So many blokes hire the gear for the night, and at the end of it they say, 'I need a jacket to return to the hire shop. That one'll do...'". So I went a tad on the casual side, but it was a great night. May go for Princes Street next year, but I was pretty keen to spend my first Hogmanay indoors, given the temperature and the amount of rain Scotland tends to get.

My first taste of haggisIt also gave me my first taste of haggis. I'd been putting it off, thinking of what it's made of. What a mistake! I've had it quite a few times since, it's fan-bloody-tastic! Serve it up with a portion of mashed turnips and potatoes (Haggis, neeps and tatties), and you're on a winner. Okay, so it's nothing much to look at, but believe me, it's a meal made in heaven. Right up there with Vegemite on Claytie's list of "things you just have to eat".

Ferris wheel from the top of the monumentThe ferris wheel from the streetAfter a couple of days recovery, a friend from Sydney, Kylie, arrived for a weekend visit. We spent the weekend cramming in as many touristy bits as we could. I quite like it when people come to visit, as it gives me the opportunity to do the touristy things with people who want to do it - the locals get bored stupid. While I've been up there before, we took a trip to the Scott Monument - you can get a feel for how tall it is from the photos of the ferris wheel. The first one was taken from street level, while the second was taken from the top tier of the monument. Very tall (sucked in to people who hate heights... oh wait, that's me), but the view is phenomenal. We had lunch in the Grassmarket, where I managed to capture this great photo of the castle:

The light, the weather - it was all perfect!

The three not-so-wise monkeys...On Saturday night we went to a great pub called "The Wally Dug" (woolley dog?) for a few bevvies. The few turned into many, partially due to the fact that there was a cast of thousands and we all agreed that it was wrong not to finish the round. Needless to say we woke up a bit the worse for wear the next day...

Katherine, Kylie, and yours trulyOn Sunday we checked out the Museum of Scotland. It's quite a building - it has two parts, the original museum, and the new museum. The original bit is a very open and airy environment, and has some great displays. The new bit, on the other hand, is an architects wet dream, if you'll pardon the expression. Lots of nooks and crannies, and little gaps in the walls. Every time you look out through a gap, you see something and say to yourself "Oh! That looks interesting! I want to go have a look!". But it's like a rabbit warren - it's so easy to get lost. But that's okay, in that on the way to see the thing you saw through the gap, you find a) something else that is really cool, and b) another gap that makes you say "Oh! That looks interesting! I want to go have a look!".

Och aye!In the evening, we went on a ghost walk, where Adam Lyal (deceased) takes you around the old town of Edinburgh telling you stories of ghosts, witches, the plague, hangings, and all sorts of interesting snippets.

The 11th of Jan gave me the chance to do the full kilt bit. A mate from work was leaving, and as a parting shot he thought it would be a good laugh to invite me along to a work bash. It was an early Burns night, a tribute to some bloke called Robbie Burns, who had a few wee drams, decided to crash in a cave rather than just walk it off and go home, and saw a spider. Or something like that. My Scots history isn't that advanced yet, but I'm sure if you do a web search (geddit? Spider? Web search? Geez, tough room...) you'll find out the story.

There's something about wearing a kilt that makes you think you can take on the world. From the moment you put it on, you have the strength of ten men. Unfortunetely, you don't have the constitution of ten men, and I ended up getting slightly on the inebriated side of things. Which is fine, unless you decide that pretending you were a waiter by picking up a tray and clearing glasses off tables with the sole intention of "accidentally" picking up the full bottle of red wine off table four, is a good idea. Especially if you find out after the fact that table four was populated by quite a few people well up the food The orphan posse...chain (let's just say partners, hypothetically. I'm sure you understand, could have happened to anyone...). Busted custard.

At the beginning of December, the gang decided that a "Secret Jacs doing the Santa thang...Santa" could be kinda fun, since we wouldn't be getting the normal sort of Christmas treats we would if we were at home. But Christmas time being as it is, we weren't able to arrange a date where we were all available. So we ended up having a Secret Santa at Jac's place almost a month after the event. A great night was had by all. My Secret Santa got me a few specialist beers, which, as far as I know, you can't get outside of Scotland. At least, I hope not...

Sheepshaggers BeerNessie's Monster MashBen Nevis Ale

A hard earned thirst needs a good cold beer, and the best cold beer is...The final event to report on, of course, is Australia day. 26 Jan. Means bugger all over here. The only difference is that quite a few pubs will serve you an ice cold VB. Went out with a Scottish lass who was keen to help me celebrate, and ended up in a place called Jeckyl and Hyde, one of the first pubs I visited when I arrived in this great city. Managed to score a novelty hat, and at the end of the night they had a case of VB left over, which they offered to sell to me at a ridiculously high price. Now, I can get VB down the road from where I live in a store called Peckhams, for a decent price, but it's tinnies. The folk at Jeckyl and Hyde had stubbies. Working the hierarchy... Tap beats bottle, bottle beats tinnies. So I got myself some, but will only crack them open on special occassions (although Caz is coming to visit quite soon, so they'll probably be gone in no time...).

But that's about it for this update. So Kramer, Jills? Back in your boxes please...